Another frequently heard concern regards entitlements, and whether reparations might contribute to a culture of entitlement among African Americans. We will limit ourselves to two responses. First, this concern fundamentally mischaracterizes the issue at hand. The implication is that reparations are primarily to be evaluated in terms of their potential effects. But this is mistaken: reparations are not primarily given in light of a hoped-for future; they are given in light of an actual past. Consider an analogy. Imagine that someone steals your car and, one year later, the thief is caught and a judge orders your car returned. Now, imagine that the thief protests this return on the grounds that walking seems to have done you good and, further, that you might get into an accident if you begin to drive again. You would, of course, realize that the thief’s concerns about the potential consequences of returning the stolen car are completely beside the point. The point is that the car is not his, that it never was his, and that his role is simply to return what he stole and let you get on with your life. The terms of the return, in other words, are not his to dictate. The concern regarding entitlement often falls into the thief’s error, and in this respect gets the matter exactly backward,
Second, this concern often entails the barely concealed assumption that entitlement is the particular affliction of the African American community and that the desire for outside economic support entails a form of civic vice. The truth, however, is that the history of American economic policy is a history of government subsidization of White Americans. As we will show in chapter 3, from the very beginning of the republic, the economic well-being of White Americans has been the fruit not simply of their personal initiative but also of critical entitlement instruments such as land grants, homestead acts, wage standardization, mortgage subsidies, education grants, and tax deductions – almost all of which, for the majority of American history, have excluded African Americans from their benefits. The simple truth, historically speaking, is that the White middle class was created by entitlements. The fact that those who have themselves most benefited from entitlement tools are also those who most frequently raise concerns about the bestowal of those tools upon African Americans is a fact that warrants serious moral reflection.
From “Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair” by Duke L. Kwon and Gregory Thompson